Does Your Easter Bunny Bring Wine?

This is how my Easter weekend is going

I thought this cute little GIF perfectly describes how I am spending my relaxing Easter weekend. And yes, my Easter Bunny does bring wine, and I hope he does for you too.

I want to share something that happened to me this past week, it happens on a semi-regular basis. So this happened a few days back.

The wine was compromised

This picture may not show it well, but I opened a bottle of red wine, and the cork was all wet and red. I knew instantly the wine was compromised. One sip confirmed this with a strong vinegar taste. So I put the cork back in the bottle and returned the remaining wine back to the NSLC. They are excellent, and will return your wine if you bring it back. (not empty of course) Most people don’t know this but anywhere from 2% to 8% of wines are corked, with the lower number being synthetic closures. Which is why synthetic closures and screw caps are becoming more and more popular.

Cork, from trees mostly grown in Portugal, started becoming the favorite stopper, replacing glass stoppers, back in the 1600’s. Too many of the glass stoppers would break. But cork is a) becoming much more expensive and b) it reacts to temperature spikes, high temperatures and movement. A compromised wine can smell vinegary, like the one I had did, but mostly they smell like a wet dog. It’s that moldy, damp wet dog smell in reds, and in white wines it will smell like cooked fruit or also like pronounced vinegar.

Another way to tell if your wine has been affected is if the cork is protruding from the bottle top. However, just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean the wine inside hasn’t been compromised. Or, as in my case, the entire cork was soaking wet with wine, not just the very bottom of the cork. The best ways to tell is smell and taste.

Did you know most people didn’t realize you could bring back tainted wine? You can, and they will graciously exchange it for you. Too many people have tainted wine and thought “I don’t like this wine”, or they pour a bad wine down the sink. That’s what I used to do. But wine is expensive, and your liquor store knows a certain percentage of wine will be off.

I love a good feed

I’ve had to use up some remaining 2020 vacation days in March, as our year end is March 31st, so I’ve been doing some cooking. No surprise there. Yes, that’s a feed of ribs you see in that picture.

Can’t grill without wine

I did some kabobs. My sister Jackie, absolutely loves chicken kabobs, hands down her favorite BBQ food. So I’ve been trying new recipes, with new marinades. This tasty marinade, in front of the glass of wine, consisted of olive oil, lime juice, honey, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce and a touch of ginger. I’m very careful when cooking with ginger, I use it in a bottle. I find it can over-power the food, unless you are careful, or unless you love ginger. Again, I marinated my chicken in this combo for a couple of hours, and set aside some of the marinade to use while cooking.

Invest in a meat thermometer
A Nice steady temperature

These two pictures are very important for my cooking and grilling. A meat thermometer and a nice steady temperature. When I’m grilling, I try not to keep the lid open for long. Let the grill do the work. However, I open the grill at times to bring temperatures back down.

And my friend Sharon gave me this wonderful meat thermometer for Christmas, and it was one of my favorite gifts. You need a meat thermometer because the days of guessing if the meat is done is so 1980’s. Our moms did this. ‘Oh, it looks like it’s done, so I’ll leave it in the oven for another 20 minutes just to be sure’. I don’t know about you, but I grew up on overcooked meat. My mother was scared to death of meat that was done any way less than well done. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

But my biggest cooking accomplishment over the past few weeks has been scalloped potatoes. This is a favorite with my sister and all my nephews. My sister, who doesn’t generally cook as a rule, told me to ignore if the recipe says 60 minutes, you need 90 – 100 minutes to properly cook scalloped potatoes.

My trusty mandolin

You can buy a mandolin anywhere for less than $20. I love mine, and find it so handy.

It makes perfect potatoes for scalloped potatoes. Would you believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but the easy recipe I used is right here! Just so you know, I cooked them covered for 1 hour 25 minutes, and then uncovered and cooked for another 15 minutes. They were tender, cheesy and delicious. I also added some freshly grated parmesan in all the layers and a mozza/cheddar blend on top.

But enough about food, let’s talk some wine.

Ruffino Pinot Grigio from Italy

To our weekly games night, Joan bought this beautiful Pinot Grigio. Ruffino is a staple in Italy, making quality wine there for 140 years. Vibrant and fresh on the palate, this wine is under $15 and just a gorgeous white wine.

Avalon Cab is on sale here in NS

For the red this week, this wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi California. Lodi, with its beautiful Mediterranean climate, is more known for Zinfandel, but the soil and climate of California, produces some spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon wines. This easy to drink Cab with its hints of vanilla, spice and chocolate, is a perfect pairing for whatever else the Easter Bunny brings this weekend. Priced under $20 normally, it’s on sale here in Nova Scotia right now at $17. My apologies for snapping this photo, above my cat food dishes. LOL.

Have a safe wonderful Easter weekend. Till next weekend, Cheers

Darlene

What’s Your Wine Name

Deep Moon Merlot

It’s Saturday morning, and let’s have a bit of fun. I saw this chart this past week, and chuckled, and thought “I have to pass it on to you”. Let me know in the comments below what your wine name is. Mine is Deep Moon Merlot.

I have to share with you what else this week bought. Meet Maggie

Maggie is a Bernadoodle that belongs to my sister Jackie. Her son, Riley is going to St. FX University here in Nova Scotia. He picked up the dog, and I met him at the half way mark to get this little doggie on a plane to his new forever home.

Cuteness overload

I got to visit with my nephew Riley this past week. Saw him briefly on Tuesday in Truro, and of course when I saw him Tuesday, I had to bring him a load of food. That’s what an Aunt Dar does! He’s coming up again this coming Friday so I guess I’ll be cooking Thursday night, I’ll share any new recipes.

Fajitas, Rice, Homemade cookies

This week I also completed my latest puzzle, my 18th since the pandemic started. A gorgeous puzzle of St. John’s Newfoundland.

St. John’s Newfoundland

I did some cooking, this probably comes as no surprise to anyone.

Brown rice, a salad with beets, almonds, parmesan and a homemade vinaigrette. The chicken is done by sautéing onions and garlic, orange juice, and some fresh herbs. Here’s my homemade vinaigrette, and the one suggestion I would use is to buy a decent olive oil. It is estimated 80% of olive oil is not ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’ or even olive oil in some cases. There is no regulation when it comes to olive oil, which means you can put olive oil on a label, and it doesn’t have to be in the bottle. Here’s a great way to test it. If you can’t drink it from a spoon, it’s probably fake. I have a couple of different olive oils.

This is my everyday oil

If I’m cooking, I don’t use the super expensive one from a wonderful place here in H.R.M. called Liquid Gold. I use this organic one I buy at Costco. If the olive oil is the star of the show, like it is when you make homemade salad dressing, this is the one I use.

Please don’t spend $4 on olive oil, I would be willing to bet it is not olive oil. The one on the top is a great buy at $15 for two bottles at Costco, and the Liquid Gold is the best, and is about $20 for a bottle.

Here’s my homemade salad dressing, combine ingredients & whisk

  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Grainy mustard
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Brown sugar

Easy and delicous.

Let’s talk some wine.

An Italian Classic

If there’s one thing Italian winemakers excel at, is making food-friendly wine. They are the king of the world, the largest wine producer in the world. Even when I visited there in 2017, where ever you ate, they would bring out a carafe of wine. You had no idea of the grapes, or if they made it in a back room. But it was delicious, and whether you drank white or red, you could be guaranteed it was going to compliment the food. It had been a long long time since I’ve had the Campfiorni red Rosso. Made with 3 grapes that are indigenous to Italy, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Whenever you see Rosso on a bottle of Italian wine, although the word means ‘red’ in Italian, they tend to be blends. This wine, I had the 2017, it is medium-bodied, easy to drink and very food friendly. Masi is famed for its Amarone, and they use that method to make this wine, called Appassimento. It’s the process of drying the grapes to enhance flavor. It makes for a beautiful wine that feels like its been aging forever. A spectacular wine for $22.

For my white loving friends, they make the Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio

Again they use an Appassimento method, drying Verduzzo grapes to add to the Pinot Grigio to add a unique complexity to the wine. This one is only $17. My friend Jakke, who works at the NSLC up the street from me, told me she found some great videos on YouTube of Sommeliers talking about wines under $20. They are fantastic, and it’s a great idea to give you some new ideas about wines. Here’s the thing that will kick you in the pants, what Americans and Europeans pay for wine, we pay double and sometimes more. The first video I watched, they were talking about the beautiful Bogle wine, and the first thing that hit me was the host said she had paid $14 for it, but the average price was $12. That wine is $25.99 here. Our friends South of the border have a huge selection of great wines under $20, us, sadly not so much! That’s why I’m here.

Don’t believe it!

Well that’s it for me for this week. As much as I love wine, do not believe it when it tells you you can dance!! LOL Learn from my mistakes.

Have a great week

Darlene

Losing An Hour of Wine This Weekend

This would be me during an upcoming election

This is the weekend the clocks go ahead. Personally I never understood why they do this on the Saturday night / Sunday morning, and we lose an hour of our weekend. I’m all for changing it to 4 p.m. on the Friday. Who’s with me? Yesterday it was 15°C here in Halifax, this morning it is 0° with a windchill of -7°C, that’s Atlantic Canada for you!

It’s a great time for red, white or sparkling

Like you, I am looking forward to longer and warmer evenings. As most of you know, I grill all year round, but let’s face it, grilling is best when the weather is warmer. Speaking of the grill, I have a new recipe for chicken skewers. Do not ask me why I seem to be obsessed with food on a stick lately. Now don’t get me wrong, for people with kids, it’s a great way to get them to eat vegetables. I must still have some kid in me, because I love them. I love how fast they grill up and how great they look on a plate. I’m having a big of an issue finding the length of skewer I want.

There is a mid-size range

These are the two size skewers I have in my pantry. The shorter one is a little more ideal than the really long one. (That thing is a weapon, you probably don’t want to give that one to kids) There is a size in the middle though, I’ve had them before. I just can’t seem to find them in Halifax. I have an awesome new recipe for Grilled Honey Chili Lime Chicken Skewers. However, you don’t need the skewer. You can make this recipe for any cut of chicken you wish, and it can be done on the grill or in the oven. I have a new grill and I love using it, but many times I’m using it like an oven.

2 chicken breasts = 10 small skewers

So I cut up the chicken in bite size pieces, and marinated it in this recipe. I cut up 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I also love boneless skinless thighs. Like I said, you can use any cut of chicken you like. You can even do this recipe on a full roasted chicken. Here’s the marinade:

  • fresh lime juice
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • honey
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of brown sugar (I’ll tell you why shortly)
  • red chili flakes
  • a splash of orange juice or chicken broth

Boneless skinless chicken, like boneless pork, is a blank canvas and they will absorb all the flavors you want to throw at them. Which is why marinating is so important with these two meats. Why the brown sugar? Not only does brown sugar contain molasses, which is a whole new flavor level, it also carmelizes on the grill and adds a gorgeous flavor.

My basting sauce is simple

On my skewers, along with the chicken, I cut up red onion, cherry tomatoes, and some peppers. It gives the skewer big pops of color. Then while grilling, I kept brushing with this simple sauce.

Don’t they look awesome!

What I was brushing them with was a little olive oil, a little orange juice, and fresh cilantro chopped up. That’s it, the oil ensured it would get golden brown, the juice adds some acidity, and the cilantro just added a good swift kick in the chicken bits! I eat them over rice, over salad, and sometimes if I’m hungry enough I eat them like a popsicle! LOL

I’ve got 2 wines for us this week, a white and a red. Let’s start with the white.

Blu Giovello

Every Tuesday evening myself and 3 friends get together for a games night, we play a game called Rummikub. Every week Angie and I alternate bringing a red wine, and Joan and Elaine alternate bringing the white wine. This is the wine Joan bought this past Tuesday, and it was one of the most unique Pinot Grigio wines I have ever tasted. It was very dry, with very little acidity, but it had beautiful flavors of lemon-lime and stone fruit. I can’t eat fish, but if I could, this would be the perfect wine for an oilier fish. This wine is $19 here in Nova Scotia and $12.90 in Ontario. How’s that for a price swing in Canada. Each week I am noticing new readers from the U.S., and Alison from Oklahoma told me she comes on to my blog to check the price of the wines I’m featuring, because it makes her feel good when she goes to buy them.

I tried a brand new red this past week, and it was spectacular

My friend Maggie and I were having coffee last weekend and she was telling me she was discovering some fantastic wines out of Chile. Chile is still one of the great values in the wine store, and I’ve been wanting to try this one. The Valle Del Maipo, which means Maipo Valley is home to the most prestigious wines that come out of Chile. It is known as the “Bordeaux of South America”, but let me tell you, the wines are a fraction of the price. I paid $20 for this Merlot and it was stunning. This was so well balanced, and still very young, as you can see I enjoyed the 2018 vintage. Full-bodied, rich and supple, this was a beautiful treat.

Enjoy the weekend, I personally think that any weekend where they take an hour away, should be an automatic holiday on the Monday. But that’s just me.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Moving Forward

Hope you like the new look

All I can say is WOW! And thank you. The feedback was amazing. I appreciated every comment on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter and in personal emails and texts. I hope you like the new look. Several people commented that the black background with white print was a little hard to read. I would also like to take a moment to welcome all our new readers. This blog originates out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. So it was nice to see all the new readers from the United States this week, in addition to Ireland, Turkey, Venezuela, Norway and India. Welcome one and all.

Welcome to the new readers

My good friend GK who set up my original blog 12 years ago, called and told me I needed to update the style. As a matter of fact, I think his exact words were ‘For the love of God girl, that blog style needs to be updated, make it cleaner, more modern.’ One of my friends who gave me feedback, FM, said I should share some of the comments. He was curious as to what the other readers had to say. So I will, protecting their identity, using just their initials. Long time reader of my blog RS, & his wife M, who lives in Newfoundland gave this feedback.

Good afternoon Darlene, I look forward to your blog each Saturday. Maxine and I are wine people as well, we were white wine drinkers at the beginning, but now it’s red and almost all red. We do buy a bottle of white every now and then. You know I like to cook, and I do enjoy your recipes. Some of the wines you feature you can’t get here on the rock, and the wine here is a little more expensive than in Nova Scotia. In my opinion just keep it going as it is. Cheers.”

The recipes will be staying

One of the constant themes with the feedback, was ‘Keep the recipes’. I had a friend tell me this past week, we are always struggling to find new recipes that are delicious and easy, so keep them up.

JL from Alberta had this say to say

Love your blog, Darlene. I think adding some recipes is a great idea …..in my opinion! 😄😄🤗

I have a couple of friends with the initials A.M. and here they are with their thoughts.

Love all the recipes!”

Would certainly welcome new recipes, along with your wine reviews, Darlene. Have enjoyed both in the past!👍

The recipes are staying

So the recipes are going to become a part of the blog, which I’m super happy about. I’m even practicing short 2 minute videos on preparing and seasoning my dishes. This comment from KT bought a smile to my face

Someone wants to know what is your suggested wine pairing for a BBQ deboned turkey, injected with white wine and sage and rubbed with apricot jam?😁. Just so you know, I recommended a Riesling!

Crispy outside, fluffy inside

This week, I want to share the easy way to make crispy potatoes in your oven or on your BBQ. I use these aluminum pans a lot when I BBQ. They help keep your BBQ cleaner and are perfect for grill cooking. You can buy them at the grocery store or the dollar store, but Costco sells 30 for $6.

I did these on my BBQ

One of the things I have learned this year is how to master the art of crispy potatoes without a deep fryer.

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes in whatever size you like. I’ve made them to look like fries, but I’ve also done this with bigger chunks.
  2. Put the potatoes in a bath of cold water and let them sit for at least 30 minutes
  3. Pat dry on a dishtowel
  4. Rub cornstarch on your hands and lightly coat the potatoes with the cornstarch
  5. Add vegetable oil, and cook in an oven of 400-degrees or on your BBQ until they are done. Times will vary depending on grills and ovens, but 25-minutes is a good average.
  6. Hold the salt till the towards the end, as putting the salt on raw potatoes will take some of the moisture out, and your potatoes won’t be as fluffy on the inside.
  7. Salt is mandatory though, when it comes to potatoes.
Delicious and crispy

Another reader suggested not doing a ‘grocery list’ of wines, just do one per week. With the recipes and everything else, one wine per week is great. So that’s what I’m going to do, and the wines will vary from red, white, sparkling, rose, and even a scattered dessert wine.

This week’s wine is from Cupcake.

Cupcake Cabernet

This week this wine was $3 off and priced under $14 here in Nova Scotia. Regular price is around $16 so it’s still a great value. I’ve had the Cupcake Red Velvet before, and because it contains Zinfandel, there is a tinge of sweetness there. My friend Angie, who I shared this with, said when she saw the name Cupcake, she thought it might be a sweetened red wine, but it isn’t. We both enjoyed it. One thing this vineyard does is pick the grapes when they are very ripe, which adds richness and a velvety palate. Great news, they make a wide variety of wine styles. Winemaker Jessica Tomei believes wine pairs best with good friends and family and great food. There is something for everyone, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sparkling and Rose. Which Cupcake wines are available in your area?

Who’s with me

Well, that’s it for this week. Thank you again so much for the feedback. Keep it coming, I’m always looking for ways to improve.

Enjoy the weekend, Cheers

Darlene

Food For Thought

Looking for advice

This week’s blog is a little different, as I am reaching out for feedback from the people that regularly read my blog. A penny for your thoughts, if you will.

Don’t see these any more in Canada

I would like to share a little history on this blog. I started this blog, and bought my name dot com, in 2009. Believe me, it wasn’t a bidding war, no one else wanted it LOL!! Back then I wrote about whatever was on my mind. The blog was called ‘In My Opinion’. I wrote about movies, current events, news, food, wine and anything else that crossed my mind.

Then in 2012, I started my 5-year journey into becoming a Certified Sommelier. Just so you know, it doesn’t take everyone 5 years. I moved to a different province, which interrupted my studies, and also took a trip one Spring with my sister, that had me passing on a particular course for that year. So, in 2012, my blog became entirely focused on wine, and I renamed the blog ‘Wine, In My Opinion” and since then “Wine, It’s Just My Opinion”. And the reason I did that, is that I have met many wonderful people who have totally different palates than mine. And they are not wrong, I’m not wrong. No one is wrong when it comes to which wines you love, that’s the beauty of winelovers everywhere.

Learning how to make homemade pizza

Then, back when the pandemic started, and I started learning new recipe ideas, learning how to make homemade bread, and learning a whole bunch of easy delicious recipes that I wanted to share, the blog went from being just wine, to wine and food. Those that know me, know I absolutely love to cook. My friend Angie says there is total joy on my face when I start talking about food and recipes. And back in May I learned how to make homemade pizza dough, and shared it with you, my readers. People went wild. Hundreds of new readers, lots of feedback, and people really enjoyed it. So I started experimenting with adding food to my wine blogs. Because after all, what goes better with food, than wine.

I shared pasta dishes.

Pasta with chicken & spiniach

I shared recipes for marinades, sauces & aiolis.

Sweet Thai Chili Aioli

I shared recipes for meats done on the grill.

Ribs, still my favorite protein

And this recipe for garlic parmesan potatoes took on a life all it’s own, with almost a thousand comments, questions, & requests for the recipe on Facebook and Twitter.

Garlic Parmesan Potatoes

This past week, I decided to do some meal prep, and shared this picture from my kitchen on Facebook and Twitter. It was +4-degrees here in Halifax and a perfect evening for grilling. And I love to grill. People went crazy again. LOL. Lots of comments and feedback.

Meal prep

Pictured are a new potato medley, pork chops, chicken skewers, garlic glazed carrots and I’ve been trying new recipes for cauliflower including a maple buffalo sauce and a homemade honey mustard glaze. I found cauliflower on sale at a Farmer’s market here in Halifax so I decided to buy a couple and try some new recipes. And I shared with my friend Angie, who really doesn’t like to cook. But she’s a great taste-tester and gives me feedback on new recipes.

So here’s where you come in!!

I need your honest feedback on the direction of this blog. I’m going to be honest, sometimes it’s tough getting up every Saturday morning and writing a wine blog. I get writer’s block, and I sometimes struggle to write about wine topics that appeals to people. That’s where the food starting coming in. It’s a perfect compliment to wine, and everyone has to eat. And let’s face it, we are always looking for new simple cooking ideas, so we are not eating the same food again and again. This is a struggle for people, which is why food companies like Hello Fresh, Chef’s Plate and Good Food are doing booming business. We’ve all seen this meme, and there is a lot of truth to it.

I’m also thinking about doing a short video in the blog. From my kitchen, showing how easy it is to prepare some of these recipes. So I’m asking for the reader’s opinion. Please be honest, please be kind. But whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or the comments below, I really would like to have your thoughts on what you would like to see in my blog. Just wine, keep with the food, expand into other areas but still include wine? I really really need your feedback. For a while, I felt it kind of turned into a grocery list of wine, and readership did start to drop. Then when I introduced food, boom!! Readership quadrupled some weeks. Thank you in advance.

I do have a new wine of the week…

A great Italian Rosso

Had a steak last night, with wings, onion rings and potatoes. I got home late, so I was starving, and ate it before I could take a picture. And I tried this new wine with it. Delicious. It’s from Tuscany and it’s 70% Sangiovese and 30% other grapes. The reason they don’t name the other grapes, is because they change up the 30% from year to year. Other red wine grapes grown in this region of Italy include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This was an easy to drink tasty Tuscan red wine, that is on sale right now for $15.99. It’s a great value and a great wine, and I highly recommend it.

Till next week, Cheers. And thank you for the feedback.

Darlene